Game Art by Matt Sainsbury is more than just a coffee table book. It’s a great way to inspire kids who may want to get into the world of game design, or truthfully, any form of art. It’s all about the vision and the process. The book begins with a preface reminding the reader that video games are, infact, art. In this day and age, it’s hard to argue with that. But this takes the idea to a different level: instead of just saying that they are art and having us agree, it reminds us that them being art makes video game designers artists. And to be an artist, one must have a vision behind that they are presenting in their medium. It’s a great way to discuss the idea of becoming an artist with your child– as well as talk about the meaning of art in their daily lives.
One thing that I really like is that it is not just about big-name developers. Sure, BioWare, Ubisoft, and others are here. But it also includes smaller, lesser known games and designers. For example Sainsbury interviewed industry vet Jennifer Schneidereit, who worked described working for big-name companies in both Japan and Europe, and ended up starting her own company with a fellow designer. That company went on to produce Tengami, a positively gorgeous game that takes its influences from origami and pop-up books.
And Jennifer isn’t the only female designer featured here. Despite popular stereotypes, video games are not the realm of men and men alone– and truth be told, they never were. There are a ton of female designers featured in this book, including Amy Fredeen of the gorgeously crafted Never Alone and the fantastic team of Naoko Mizuno and Tsunako for game company Idea Factory. If you have a daughter particularly interested in games and game design, this book is sure to inspire.
In fact, this book is great for all creative kids. Tin Man Games designer Neil Rennison has a particularly compelling section about childhood creativity. He talks about the influences of Choose Your Own Adventure books from his childhood, and how they lead him to creating the Gamebook Adventures. One amusing anecdote– Rennison needed to design a world for a game completely from scratch and lamented how long it would take him– before he remembers that he already did design a world– when he was thirteen! Photographed on that page is a drawing of the map from a roleplaying game he created 25 years before– which became the basis of the world inside of Gamebook Adventures.
If you are the parent of a creative child, this is a great book to read alongside your artist, no matter what their age is. Encourage them to read about each game and compare the designers’ methodology and mission statements to one another. Ask your child about their own art– why do you draw the things you like to draw? Why do you write the things you like to write?
Some of the screenshots from the game are a little fuzzy, or not what you might expect from a book called Game Art. However, once again, it is important to remember that this book is about the designer and their vision, and having those visions accurately represented does the book far more favors than falsely representing them.
Not all of the featured games may be appropriate for children of every age. In particular the Lollipop Chainsaw section has some sex appeal that parents may need to explain to younger children. In addition, some of the game shots may be a little scary for super young readers, which is why we think this book is great for pre-teens and up.
You can purchase Game Art over at No Starch Press.